Is It Better To Film Portrait Or Landscape? How To Decide

Should I film Portrait or Landscape? Deciding between shooting portraits or landscapes can be difficult. But we’re here to help you find your perfect happy medium! Check out this detailed article to start off.

In the olden days of cinema and television, there was no such thing as filming vertically. If you wanted to capture a scene, you would point your camera at it and take a straight shot. 

The camera was by default shooting in landscape mode or horizontally. The concept of cinema’s visual aspect was horizontal, cinemascope, 70MM, Panoramic. But today, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and above all, smartphones have transformed the way people shoot videos. And even more recently, smartphones have made it possible to shoot vertically (Portrait).

What was below the mark is now the norm. And that’s what makes many people confused. Should I film Portrait or Landscape? Which is better? 

What’s Portrait and Landscape in Films and Videos?

1. The Traditional Horizontal Format:

First, let us understand why the traditional way of filming was horizontal. There are several reasons for this.

  • First, in the old days of filmmaking, when the camera was a bulky and oversized mechanism, only a few people could use it. Professional cinematographers and filmmakers primarily used it. People like Mr. Alfred Hitchcock were limited to shooting with one camera while watching shadows interfering with the image. It meant that there were no standard positions, so they had to make do with what they could do with their bulky machinery, and their talent would fill up all the extra space.
  • Second, the front projection was the only way of projecting a large film for people to watch. This meant that there was no place for the audience to sit while watching the film. The best place to watch a movie was on the floor or in front of a big-screen television. So the movie theatres to high definition televisions followed the horizontal protocol. Every moving image pretty much ended up with a horizontal format as this was considered decent for viewing at home or in theatres.
portrait vs landscape
  • Third, Moving images kept the frame busy. Hence it required a more wide frame to encompass all the information. Also, it was easier for the line to vision to flow sideways than downwards. Landscape made the imagery breathtaking and magical. Only for that cinema could capture such a significant acceptance worldwide.
  • Last, filmmaking means that cinema became a genre that relied on editing more than anything else. And editing, for the most part, involved cutting and joining together two shots horizontally. With time, the human brain got wired to the movement from left to right, and it became the rhythm for cutting and storytelling. So the landscape mode became the way it is.

2. The New Portrait Format:

Shooting in portrait mode means you are shooting someone vertically or something, so the subject is upright in the center of the picture, filling most of the frame. 

Today, with the advent of smartphones, shooting horizontal videos was disrupted because of social platforms like Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube shorts, which allow endless vertical videos. Therefore, we are at a time when the idea of shooting horizontal videos is limited to professional platforms like movies, television content, and OTTs.

Shooting vertical is considered amateurish by the purist, but it seems in no time, vertical filmmaking will be accepted widely. Today, some content providers even encourage the use of vertical videos for their social media channels. Even social media video ads are presented vertically if not shot that way.

Many people are still not even aware of this matter and whose minds are not yet prepared for making such a decision until they are forced by accident or after filming many vertical videos themselves.

portrait vs landscape

The portrait genre is commonly used when filming pets or people. It tends to capture the image more than its environment, whereas the person behind the camera focuses on his or her subject’s attitude, personality, appearance, and style instead.

Is It Better To Film Portrait Or Landscape?

Landscape or horizontal aspect ratio is here to stay for a long time because cinematic storytelling goes beyond the subject. The production design, the Landscape behind, and the background environment’s mood always heighten the drama, which is difficult to capture with a portrait frame. But Portrait will also be hugely popular because the camera is in the hands of billions empowered to shoot videos without necessary knowledge or training in videography or filmmaking.

So, in one sentence, the answer is: The best format for your video depends on what you are filming. For talking heads or interviews, a portrait works well. For scenic videos or filmmaking, where the creative elements in the picture are more than just a face, landscape mode is great.

But to elaborate on the above, it is not that simple so let’s dig deep to analyze in-depth the above indecision.

How to decide whether to film Portrait or Landscape

Should I frame the film Portrait or Landscape? Since we want to shoot in the best aspect ratio format possible, let’s look at some of the reasons you should or shouldn’t choose either of them. These factors will help you break the tie.

  • Your Subject :

One crucial thing about filming is about fitting the subject on the screen, and its dimension highly determines that. The human body is naturally vertical, which makes Portrait orientation the best choice for such a subject. Other subjects that would look better on portrait videos include waterfalls, tall buildings, and trees.

When the background in the frame plays a pivotal role in the storytelling and the subject, Landscape will play the trick. It is ideal for capturing scale supported by other horizontal elements of nature.

  • What You Want To Achieve :

A portrait orientation allows a cinematographer to play with the relationship between height and width in the frame. So it takes up less screen real estate when uploaded to social media. This helps make still shots more dynamic and tells a compelling visual story better for vertical subjects.

Landscape format, on the other hand, lets you explore wide-open spaces and capturing landscapes on steroids! The cinematic quality of landscape videos is unmatched with anything else available in any other aspect ratio format. It brings your world closer to you!.

  • Visual Emphasis

The Portrait emphasizes the subject resulting in the sense of independence. Other feelings include superiority, modernity, and wonder since the subjects are usually tall. Its landscape counterpart emphasizes space hence brings out immersion and ease.

Also, check the table below to see the difference between the two.

OrientationThe frame of the footage is in such a way that the width is bigger than the height. It makes it ideal for subjects too wide to shoot vertically.The height of the frame is longer than its width. Its name says it all since it is the most suitable option when it comes to portraits.
Background ElementsIf the footage background has many horizontal lines, go for this choice. It brings about a feeling of security and a balance to the captured image.On the other hand, Portrait is the best option if many vertical lines characterize the background. After all, it has a way of making them appear as if they are never-ending.
FocusThe focus is more on the subject in relation to the background.You will be focusing on the subject, and since it will almost fill the frame, it always looks imposing and tall.
Emotional ImpactIt tends to make your subject relatively small and quite vulnerable. It also brings out an awe-inspiring view because the background appearances are usually imposing and magnificent.While the background seems more imposing in Landscape, it is the subject that takes this characteristic when shooting Portrait. The subject’s regal bearing carries the day bringing out a feeling of intimacy in the process.
DimensionsIf the client wants a photo in a frame with a width larger than the height, Landscape is the ultimate choice.In the event they want the frame to have a longer height than the width, consider this option.
The Rule of ThirdsConsidering the rule of thirds is not a choice when filming Landscape.Neither is it an option even when filming a portrait, or else the view will look uninteresting.
StyleSubject lines affect the view, which is why you should choose Landscape if their lead to your eyes is horizontal to the scene.You also need to choose Portrait if the leading lines of the scene are vertical. Failure to do so will cut them off, thus reducing the effect.
ContextLandscape focuses more on the background means that the viewer has a lot of contexts to look at, indeed.As for Portrait, the subject is the focus which means the viewer only gets to see little information.
DistanceThe viewer sees a situation whereby the filmography was quite far from the subject.It leaves the viewer thinking that the person shooting it was pretty close to the subject due to how much it fills the screen.
SpaceLandscape footage has a way of making the viewer feel that the image is relatively spacious. There is room to breathe, and space gives the footage a different feel altogether.Whereas its counterpart makes the footage feel overwhelmingly close. The Portrait makes its subject regal while also accentuating it.
CompositionIt offers an option to space out the props and the subject and provides a better balance and harmony in the frame.The subject or the props may crowd the frame, and the composition may look heavy.

Portrait vs. Landscape: Pros and Cons.

Pros of Filming Portrait

  1. The vertical shooting is innovative and enticing. It makes your videos stand out from the rest. 
  2. It allows you to place all the essential details in the center of the frame. Thus it makes the production cost-effective as it requires a smaller real estate.
  3. Smaller size- When filming vertically, you can record a lot of videos on one memory card. 
  4. Easy upload- We all know that uploading videos takes time. It’s much simpler to do it if you only have vertical clips.
  5. You can easily edit your videos if they are vertical clips- You can crop your video in a few steps to get it the size you want.
  6. The fact that the design of mobile devices’ chances of going horizontal any time soon are relatively low means that portrait filming will remain relevant for mobile phone users for a rather long time.
  7. The production and the post-production are fast-paced and simple due to many supporting apps and filters.  
  8. The fact that the audience of many social media influences or stars prefer watching the vertical video 
  9. It doesn’t distract from the subject and its performance. 
  10. Filmmaking equipment is lighter and less cumbersome, and it is not expensive to get a camera that does the job.
  11. You can shoot small interiors and exteriors at a close distance.

Cons of Filming Portrait

  1. It is important to note that it is different from how human vision works. The fact that it is against natural eyesight can put it at a disadvantage compared to Landscape.
  2. You can’t capture a lot of subjects with this format.
  3. If the visual required for what you intend to shoot is demanding, something familiar with brands and companies, don’t consider Portrait.
  4. Primarily for indoor shooting, which isn’t adventurous most of the time.
  5. You can’t see the horizon- If you shoot in landscape format.
  6. Wide angled lenses create a fish-eye effect, thus distorting the image.
  7. Color distortion – When shooting vertically, the color in your video might be darker / lighter, as it seems to follow one direction. Your videos will look uneven.
  8. Slightly different shooting experience- In fact, it is rare to have both of your feet straight while shooting. You will have to hold the camera differently.
  9. It is not acceptable in formal events- It may appear to be inappropriate informal situations.

Pros Of Filming Landscape

  1. Naturally, the eyes are laid out horizontally, making it relatively natural to watch a horizontal video. 
  2. Horizontal has been with us for quite a long time to the extent that cinema theatres use it exclusively. Therefore, it will always remain an option, and to some extent, the Portrait is more of an exception and not the rule.
  3. In the future, next-generation devices, including smart glasses, will be using the landscape orientation.
  4. The landscape format, especially the one with an aspect ratio of 2:39:1, has a way of giving any footage a cinematic look.
  5. When watching a long video, there are high chances you will not go for a mobile device. If you settle for it, you will end up going for the entire screen and landscape orientation. That’s yet another advantage of filming Landscape.
  6. It’s a very natural approach and will give your video more authenticity.
  7. Landscape films can be made about any subject globally, and the background won’t distract from your subject.
  8. The lack of dialogue can take audiences on a journey. 
  9. The shots are easy to set up, so it gives you time to think about the rest of the film. 
  10. If you’re filming in low-light climates, more of the scene will be visible.
  11. If the shot is wide enough, you can create more movement within the scene.
  12. The scene in front of you provides many options for camera angles and shots, which can contribute to telling your story better.
  13. It gives more compositions and makes the editing crisper.
  14. Landscape videos tend to be less loud than portrait videos, and they’re less predictable and are more beautiful than vertical shots. Most video types have made Landscape their primary distribution format.

Cons Of Filming Landscape

  1. It is pretty competitive, which means you have to be great to stand out.
  2. You can’t shoot tall buildings or any verticals from close.
  3. Landscape framing shoots up the production budget as it demands a lot of setups in the background.
  4. Filmmaking equipment is heavy and cumbersome. Focus and lighting need a lot of gear.
  5. You can’t shoot small interiors and exteriors at a close distance.
  6. Changing a background set can be exhausting and time-consuming.

Related Questions:

Portrait or Landscape Video for Instagram?

Your Instagram videos are better on a mobile phone when they are in portrait orientation. It is because it is more convenient to scroll and swipe when it is in portrait mode.

When you are streaming on other platforms like Youtube or Facebook, the biggest screen size you should consider is a laptop, so there would be no issue with watching your video in landscape mode. 

Therefore, if you are sure that most viewers watch your videos on a mobile device or desktop computer, there is no problem filming portrait videos. However, if you want to cover all the bases, then filming landscape videos would be better.

Portrait or Landscape Video for Youtube?

Should I film Portrait or Landscape if the videos are meant for Youtube? When it comes to Youtube, it is hard to know beyond any reasonable doubt the screen the users will be going for when watching. However, it is usually expected that they will be using TVs or desktops. Under such circumstances, the best option will be shooting the video landscape.

Landscape: You should always aim to give the best experience that you can for your viewers, and most TVs and desktops are wide rather than long. Also, Youtube and Facebook have large displays. If you want to get the subscribers’ attention and keep their interest, it is fair that you try to win them by giving them pictures more than their everyday life.

Portrait:  Youtube shorts is experimenting with that aspect lately for short-duration videos. However, it is so far in use for non-serious videos like usual chats, reminders, gags, and small tips( in the similar lines of TikTok). But keep your eyes open to innovation. If it becomes the norm, you opt for Portrait then.

Final Words

If you ask me which format I prefer, I would say Landscape- but not all the time. An excellent video does its job well no matter what type of shot you use, so don’t feel constrained by the suggested format. Also, don’t get stuck in a rut. 

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